How To Miss A Flight
Don’t rush. Leave a little late. All three flights on this vacation have had easy airport experiences; this one will be no different. Say with confidence, when your partner worries about the time, that you’ve never in your life missed a flight, and that you hope you never do. You’re leaving Spain; it’s sad. Get weepy on the taxi ride from the hotel to the Metro station.
Throw away your single-use Madrid Metro tickets as soon as you’re inside the Nuevos Ministerios station. Reason that you will not need them anyhow—you never have before. Then:
Follow signs toward the appropriate American Airlines check-in booth. They will lead you, without explanation, to the car rental area. You will have to discover yourself that the actual check-in booths are all they way on the top floor. Allow this bad Information Architecture to anger you.
Call it “Information Architecture,” you pompous asshole.
Realize, on your way up the endless moving ramps, that you could have taken the elevator next to the car rentals.
Stand in the line at Booth 754, even though it’s marked Business Class. Stand there until someone tells you to stand in the muggle line.
When you get to Terminal 4S, follow the signs toward the R gates. They will lead you, without choice, through a Duty Free store. Allow the outrageous advertising-ness this to anger you.
Become offended by the strength of the smells in the perfume section of this mandatory Duty Free Store Tour (Duty Free sTour?). Think about that one woman you met once, who sold soaps at the Farmer’s Market, who has an alergy to synthetic scents. Judge these Madrid Airport assholes for being so insensitive and dangerous to people like that woman. All so they can make an extra Euro or two!
Rush now, because it’s getting close to boarding time. Go past the Starbucks and all of the other restaurants. Ignore your hunger; get to your gate and then go back for food.
There will be another security line right towards the end of the terminal, for all of the flights to America. One line for Dallas, one for Philadelphia. They will check your passport again, and ask if you had your bag with you the whole time, and if you bought anything in the Duty Free store. They will not explain to you why they need to do this. They do not think they owe you an explanation. Allow this indignity to anger you.
Forget to ask them if you’re allowed back out. Just rush through. Get it over with. Your partner, behind you, will ask if people are allowed back out once they’re safely contained in the America section. They are not. You will be told that she can go get food, but you, who have not gone even one meter past the people who checked your passport, cannot. Your partner will go get breakfast for the both of you.
When you go use the baños, consider complaining to the person next to you about how unjust it all is. But remember that he might not speak English, and refrain.
Try to fill your water bottle, but fail to find a fountain. Become freshly angry at this most perplexing aspect of Spanish culture: their seeming hatred of hydration. Note the water for sale in the vending machines. Reject the silly wastefulness of such things and fill your water bottle with the perfectly potable, warm water from the bathroom sink.
Sit in silent protest, on the floor just inside the security line, waiting for your partner to come back.
Think better of that, and go sit at gate R4, where you’re supposed to be. Try to get happy. All of this anger is pointless. Well-justified, but pointless. It will accomplish nothing. Your partner will feel weighed-down by your stress, and will try to cheer you up. Don’t put this all on her.
Note how empty Gate R4 is. And how unfamiliar the people are. You’ve been in lines with people headed to Philly all morning, but they’re not here. However, don’t think about this too much. Assume, quickly, that the people you were around earlier must be at another group of seats. When you see a lady in a shirt with a Texas outline and the word “Home”, assume that she has a layover in Philly.
Your partner will bring you orange juice, though you said you didn’t want it, smiling her biggest “please be happy now!” smile.
“They had one of the machines with real oranges on top, and I just had to get it,” she will say. She will also bring you a sandwich with tortilla española and peppers. And both things will be delicious. Start to feel happier. There’s nothing that you can do. Just focus on feeling less grumpy.
Get snacks in the vending machine. Your partner will have already gotten herself some bottled water. Go try to use up your Euro coins. Debate for a long time whether to get the peanuts from Virgina; wish that they had peanuts from closer afield. Give in: get the peanuts. Give in more and get a variety of carby snacks, too. Whatever. You’re letting loose. Time to relax.
Your partner will tell you that it’s time to go get in line, that Group 5 was called. But don’t rush. It’s not like the lines move that fast. Finish getting your last pack of crackers. You’ll be doing a good job of feeling less grumpy by this time, and you don’t want rushing around to ruin it.
Go up to Gate R4. You’ll be two of the last ones. Hand them your boarding passes.
They will tell you, with alarm, that this is not the flight to Philly. This is the flight to Dallas. Check the time. See that it is three minutes before your flight is supposed to go airborne.
Run. Let the adrenaline take you and run. Run to Gate R7, where you were supposed to be. To Gate R7, which is the gate number clearly stated on your boarding pass.
The sympathetic attendants at R7 will tell you that the plane’s door is closed. That it is backing up. Go ahead and ask, pointlessly, if it can come back. Ask if they can find you another flight. Your legs will be shaky from all the adrenaline. Marvel that they are so earnestly trying to find you another flight.
They will tell you that they can book you on the same flight the next day. Ask if they can fly you to a nearby city instead, on the same day. Marvel again as they honestly try to fulfill your request. They will do this without judgement. They will tell you that they paged for you about 5 times. They will apologize that maybe they didn’t pronounce your name quite right, and suggest maybe that’s why you didn’t hear. Explain to them that you heard no announcements at all.
Why hadn’t you heard any announcements? Maybe the speakers weren’t working in your part of the terminal? Say this. Say it out loud; insist that the problem can’t possibly be with you, and that the outside world must be broken somehow. Then let the truth sink in: The problem was you.
Take a seat. Wait to see what the wonderful attendant can do for you. She’ll need to wait for a call back from her manager.
An announcement will start. Get up and run to R4, to see if you can hear it there, and if you were truly that level of oblivious; that level of rageblind.
Your sandal will break during your short run. You will deserve it.
The wonderful attendant will tell you that the best she could do was to book the same flight for the next day, at no extra charge. She will ask, in her adorable Spanish accent, “How did this happen? You are young and clever!”
Spend another day in Spain. Stay at a hotel in the suburbs with an airport shuttle. The next day they will be even more unjust; they will single you out for a pat-down, they will unpack your perfectly packed bags, they will unroll your tidy bundles of clothing to look through your underwear. But by then you will not mind. You will have learned to just let it all pass by.